There are countless atrocities taking place this very moment to which the American population as a whole has decided to turn a blind eye. Namely; human trafficking – a fancy way of describing the capture and enslavement of innocents, children being raised – hungry and afraid – in poverty-stricken areas, and the outrageous abuse – sexual and physical – taking place in foster homes nationwide. The various causes of these epidemics are talked about and debated heavily. Political culture is essentially built upon the foundation of the search for a scapegoat to officially put the blame on – be it an opposing party or individual, the blame seems to never hit its mark. American society has an obsession with victimizing themselves and others, and yet, real effective change is a rarity. It appears to be in the nature of the people to be angry about something – or much more likely – everything. Such an emotionally driven society should yield results that reflect as much, however, the phenomenon that can be witnessed is representative of a much more lackadaisical mentality. A prime example of this very phenomenon is the documentary Banana Land. Aside from the misdiagnosis of the true disease, great effort is put into assigning blame and judgment. The debate is emotional, invoking strong opinions from any and all viewers, and yet, in the end, awareness is not equivalent to action.
The concept of the free press – modern-day journalism – is practically worshipped in American society. Only very recently did skepticism become so heavily endorsed, and even now the word of the media is commonly taken as gospel. The argument of the existence, and much more relevantly, the distinction of truth is vital in the realm of mass media. However, for the moment it is important to assume absolute and untarnished truth of data, in order to argue against Banana Land. Talking about issues has become so commonplace in the U.S. that the intent behind has been completely lost. The purpose of the distribution of information has been reduced to the production of capital – as the illusion of being informed is incredibly important to people in modern society. Mass media would love to convince its viewers that they are the sole instigators of positive change in this world, but the yield actually seen is dismal. This blur of the moral line has even at times led to the purposeful misconstruction of the information given out – this, however, is a tangent of which is insignificant to the matter at hand. To oversimplify – simply spreading information about the past and present atrocities in South America will not lead to any form of positive change. While this is not inherently a negative aspect of journalism, the malignancy begins when this work sells itself as the solution to all social problems – or even a small treatment of symptoms. The fact is as such – Americans hate to feel guilty, and simply watching an hour long informative documentary gives the illusion of being a part of some bigger, greater cause.
Now, amid all the frustration surrounding the impotence of the media, must lie some form of skepticism. To accept any form of information without any personal checking is – at the risk of some pretentiousness – the antagonist of the concept of academia. The lack of credible sources for important stories is extremely discouraging, however, for too long the general public has let this become an excuse to not search for the truth in any form. The effectiveness, or lack thereof, of journalistic practices, is also commentated on in the book “Activist Science and Technology Education” from author G.M. Bowen. Speaking of his first-hand experience in college-level journalism courses, “I cannot say that [they]… make any serious attempt to try and address issues in current journalism practices and the effectiveness by which the media inform the public about socioscientific issues, or any other issues for that matter”(Bowen300). These issues, for the most part, are related in some form or another, to biases. This being the contamination of data due to either the presence – inadvertently or intentionally – of personal opinion or a simple misrepresentation of the facts. The manifestation of this in Banana Land came in the form of misnaming a symptom as the entire problem. The abuse of workers from banana companies was and is heartbreaking. And by no means must their many faults be ignored or downplayed in any way. However, this abuse is only present due to the poorly run quasi-government active in Colombia. A country in which cartels and their vast arsenal of weaponry are the only, abysmal form of regulation. This, in combination with the blind eyes of the American government in respect to big business – thanks to contributions from viewers like the top one percent – is the cause of many problems outside the mismanaged, abused banana plantations. This seems obvious, and the argument can be made that the attention being brought to this specific scandal is merely a way of drawing attention to the bigger problems. Yet this does not seem to be the case in Banana Land. Interviews with victims and authors of books – yes that is books in the plural – about bananas force the assumption that somehow the journalists involved in this project lost sight of the big picture. Although they made a relatively successful documentary with an emotional story, there was no call to arms that would in any way present a solution.
Journalism can be an incredibly powerful medium for the activation and catalyzation of change. In its true form, it is a noble pursuit that should be honored, however far too often the intent is clearly to obtain popularity and in turn, capitol. Media purism may be a pipe dream, but the idleness of the public as they worship an art that simply does no real good is ridiculous. And as a means of avoiding the accusation that this is merely another social commentary, let the call to arms be as follows: do not blindly trust what is witnessed, seek the truth by discerning what is biased, and don’t buy bananas.